Monday, May 30, 2011

Relaxing between some trees

Happy Memorial Day! We stayed pretty low-key today, going to Nelson Brothers for some blueberry muffins then over to Sportsman's Park to fly a kite and for Andrea and I to read some books. I setup both our hammocks (the one I used hiking and a more typical macrame store-bought model).

Few things in life are as awesome as laying in a hammock with a book on a beautiful spring day. In contention, however, is laying in a hammock on a beautiful spring day with a playful two-year-old:

The boys enjoyed climbing into and out of the hammocks with us, among other things. In this picture, he's clearly not letting Andrea get any reading done, but it's fun anyway.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Book say Earth person... tall.

Yesterday was Reed's second birthday. Because Dad finished the outage yesterday (12 hour work days), we scheduled the birthday party for today. It was a small shindig -- my parents, Andrea's parents and the Days -- but we still made cupcakes. Andrea has been experimenting with designs from What's New, Cupcake? and for today, she picked the Sesame Street Martians (often called the Yip-Yip Aliens). We spent a bit of time working on them; while they're not perfect, I think they are pretty good:

Another exciting part of the day is that we gave the boys their own sleeping bags. Reed has a fox- and Jacob a bear-themed bag. They were so excited to lay in them in the living room. Tonight, Jacob and I are going to sleep in the tent downstairs. I'm hoping we can get the boys interested in camping from an early age. So far, so good.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's go fly a kite!

A few days ago, Andrea bought a kite for the boys. We finally got around to taking it out today after work. Despite the fact that our development is usually very windy, there was almost none tonight, so I had to teach the boys to grab the string and run. As it happens, Reed is excellent at holding an object and running away:

Jacob, on the other hand, liked to turn around, look at the kite, run back toward us, etc., and the kite didn't last very long with him.

They both loved the experience, and I expect we'll be playing with it quite a bit more this summer -- hopefully with more wind than today.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gone to the park; and The 100 Thing Challenge

Tonight was quite relaxing. After work, I picked the boys up, headed home, ate dinner, and we went to the park to play. Andrea and I both brought our e-readers in the hopes that we could read while the boys played. As it happens, two- and a four-year-old boys like to play pretty dangerously, so we ended up spending probably two-thirds of our time making sure they didn't fall backward off the pseudo-rock wall. (While I'll admit there's probably some helicopter parenting involved, on at least one occasion, Reed would have fallen probably five or six feet had we not been there, so our concerns were justified.)

Right before we left, Andrea got the boys on some gymnastic-like equipment, and they wanted their picture taken:

Speaking of our e-readers...

I've been trying to read more lately. One of the books I got from the library is The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno, and since Andrea is at this very moment at the grocery store, I've had about 20 minutes to read. I just finished the book, which has some great discussion, but I must confess, I think it's pretty poorly written. (For example, Bruno discusses the economics of abandoning American-style consumerism, yet his discussion is basically what he feels would happen to our economy if everyone took the 100 Thing Challenge for themselves. Why not take a day and go discuss with some economics professors at a local university how they think this kind of radical shift in consumption would actually affect the economy?)

That being said, I love Bruno's idea -- trim down all your personal possessions to no more than 100 items and live for a year, making yourself conscious of consumerism's dark side. In fact, I've informally tried to do this by giving away or selling many of my physical goods. I find, however, that my problem isn't so much with acquiring too many items (though I definitely love REI's scratch & dent sale) but with trying to do too many things. My personality is such that nearly every thing interests me, every project sounds fun, and I would happily take college courses and earn degrees until the day I die. So maybe I need to take my own challenge to reduce the number of activities in which I participate.

I haven't yet decided what book I'm going to read next. I'm thinking about maybe The 4-Hour Workweek, Ulysses, or The Razor's Edge.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.

Becca and Josh came over this afternoon to celebrate Reed's birthday since they won't be around next weekend when we celebrate with everyone else. Happily, Doug and Sarah also stopped by to join us. We had a lot of fun, though I have to admit that Andrea and I were complete bums. We were so exhausted (both of us took turns napping this morning) that - after lunch - we zonked out on the couch while the Gads played with both boys in the back yard. It was awesome catching a few extra Zs.

Some time after lunch but before the sandman came, the boys cuddled up and watched some TV (Wild Kratts, I believe). Reed fell asleep in Becca's lap, but Jacob sat between her and Josh on the floor. He was so excited to have his picture taken:

I finally got my butt around to mowing the lawn dandelions. It actually looks reasonably good now that it's cut.

We decided to go out on a walk before we put the boys down for the night, but we didn't get very far -- about a block away before the rain started again. I was on the phone with Nate for a while, so when we got home, Andrea put the boys to bed. In situations where one of us can't help out with bedtime, we usually go in after the fact; so once I got off the phone with Nate, I went in there to give Jacob a goodnight kiss.

As of late, Jacob has really enjoyed playing with my books. I hope this is an early sign that he'll be an avid reader, but even if it's not, it's pretty cute that he likes to take Daddy's books and carry them around with him. He stumbled upon my copy of A River Runs Through It the other day, wanted to play with it in bed, and when I went in for a goodnight kiss, this is how I found him:

Friday, May 20, 2011

You have low iron

I'm a pretty big fan of giving blood. I've probably given somewhere on the order of eight gallons since I started giving. Last week, I became eligible to give again, but I didn't get around to going until today. Unfortunately, I have low hemoglobin, so I couldn't give. I've been deferred a few times for low iron (generally around 12.1 g/dL; the threshold for men to give is apparently 12.5 g/dL), but it seems like I'm so near the threshold that it's pretty minor. Out of curiosity, I checked Wikipedia's article on anemia, which cites a WHO article stating that the "haemoglobin [threshold] used to define anaemia" for men is 130 g/L, or 13.0 g/dL. So according to the WHO, apparently, I have anemia. Maybe I should just eat a big steak and some quinoa.

Speaking of food. A few weeks ago, I finally bought my shiitake kit from Fungi Perfecti. I've been going through the instructions, and some pretty impressive mushrooms have fruited. Here's a picture from a few days ago:

I need to start the process over again to induce more mushrooms to grow. In the meantime, I've got some research to do on some good recipes using shiitakes.

Another side note: I started summer classes this Monday. I'm not entirely sure how this is going to go given that I'm crazy busy at work, and our summer is already jam-packed with activities.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sleeping in the trees

I got back yesterday from a fun trip up to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) with my buddy Luke. We've gone a few times, both to the SHT and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), but this time was a bit different in that instead of sleeping in tents, we both had our own hammocks. Luke bought a Hennessey and I made one using info I found from Just Jeff's Hammock Camping Page.

We got to the first camp site on Friday around 7:00pm - leaving us plenty of time to setup and tweak our systems. Here's my setup on the first night:


Luke's is a much more professional system. It has a bug net and a rainfly built-in:

On Saturday, after getting up, letting our gear dry (it rained a little bit overnight, though I did stay dry), having some breakfast, etc., we left camp, hiked for a few miles, stopped for lunch, then turned around and made it back to a campsite very much like the first one. It was actually a rather short hike. Much more camping and less hiking than usual. In fact, Saturday, we stopped around 2:00pm to setup for the night. That left us with plenty of time to tweak and re-tweak our gear. (Luke setup his hammock three times before getting it at a good location.) I had to re-whip one end, as it moved a bit Friday night/Saturday morning.

One thing I learned this weekend is that my 20 degree bag -- even without the five degree liner -- is warm enough in mid-may at the SHT that I don't need any extra insulation. I had no sleeping pad, but I did drape a fleece throw below my hammock on Friday night, thinking any wind would keep my underside pretty chilly. Saturday night, I went without it and was still quite warm. That knowledge means next time around, I can significantly reduce my gear's bulk.

I'm still debating whether I should buy something more reliable like a Hennessey, an Eno DoubleNest, or a Byer Moskito. At some point, I'll need some protection from insects, and I'm not certain my whipping will hold forever, but it's good for now. And at $20, I can't complain too much about my current setup.

I'm looking forward to the next trip hiking -- whenever that is.